Posted by: erichosemann | November 20, 2009

Entrepreneurial Success Doesn’t Depend On Merit

It depends on the institutions that allow for accurate perception of scarcities and inequalities.

Steve Horwitz reminds us not to fall for the “myth of merit.”

Success isn’t solely the province of the former varsity football star with the flat top ‘do and shiny teeth.  Success, Horwitz writes, comes to those “able to figure out what people want and to get it to them in a cost-efficient way.”  In other words, success comes to those people who are allowed to address the scarcity and inequality of life.

This is an important and comforting point.  It’s important because it reminds us that we live in a society drunken on the myth of merit.  It shapes the mainstream concept of what it means to succeed.  The myth of merit helps powerful people convince themselves and others that there is something unique to their ability to succeed; that there is something that separates the successful from the great unwashed masses who scrabble over each other for crumbs.

It’s comforting because it means that, given the right environment, human beings are inclined to serve each other.  Not through bureaucratically ordained altruism but through their own self interest.  We see this all the time.  We see people succeed who don’t fit the stereotype of success.  The dominant narrative is “there must be something special about them that helped them to [you choose: put four kids through college by running a hotdog stand, rise out of poverty to become a CEO, etc., etc.]”

Ignore the myth of merit and you will begin to see the outlines of the invisible hand.



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